“We can’t deny Communion! We mustn’t ‘politicize’ the Eucharist!” False argument.

There is a good piece today at The Catholic Thing which looks at denial of Holy Communion to obstinate public supporters of abortion.  The writer brings up the example of the late Archbp. Rummel of New Orleans who, in the early 60’s, desegregated all Catholic schools.  Segregationists were furious, loudly protested that God wanted segregation, and threatened blowback.  The Archbishop excommunicated them.   Today, no one – NO BISHOP says, “I wouldn’t have done what Rummel did because I can’t read the soul of those segregationists.”   Today, no one – NO BISHOP – says, “I wouldn’t have condemned members of the Nazi party in the 1930s because I can’t see their souls.  Von Gallen was wrong.”

Get this…


Plenty of people at the time seem to have been convinced that Rummel’s excommunications would be “pointless,” that he was just “making things worse” and “exacerbating the tensions in New Orleans.”  Perhaps he did.  But no one dares say it now. No one condemns Rummel in retrospect with the claim that “there were other equally important priorities in the Church – not just that one issue alone.”  [That’s what the Left, the Fishwrap types, always do.  They reduce the right to be born into a minestra of other social issues.  But before all other issues, the right to be born in the first place must take precedence.  It is patently unfair to accuse those to emphasize the right to be born of not caring about other issues.]

People do say how, however, rather vehemently, that the Catholic bishops of Germany should have “done more,” been “less accommodating,” and excommunicated more people during the Holocaust.  But wasn’t excommunicating the entire Nazi leadership in 1931 and banning Catholics from joining the party “politicizing the Eucharist”? [Exactly.] They banned Catholics from joining a political party!  How could they “look into the souls” of each of those German citizens to judge why they were joining the National Socialists?  Perhaps they just believed in the “worker’s movement” (the Nazis were, after all, as their name indicated, national socialists)?

I sometimes ask my students, “Did the German bishops violate the ‘separation of Church and state’ when they excommunicated members of the Nazi Party?”  No, they all agree.  “Would an American bishop be violating the ‘separation of Church and state’ if he dared to excommunicate a Catholic politician who had repeatedly and publicly supported access to abortion up to the moment of birth – including late-term, ‘partial-birth’ abortions?”  Most don’t like this. “Why one and not the other?” “It’s different,” they claim.


It’s not.

Virtually every bishop says, “I can’t read the soul of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, so I won’t apply can. 915 if they come to my diocese.”

The criterion for denial of Communion rests NOT being able to “see the soul” of another person.  The criterion is the open, known, obstinate, public words and actions of that person.   If a person has committed public scandal in a grave matter, that scandal has to be publicly addressed by the Church’s shepherds.  That’s why we have cann. 915 and 916.

These days the spine-challenged wring their hands and croon that we have to all get along and be nice and not upset anyone.  We have to tone down the rhetoric.  We can’t deny Communion to anyone because that will make people sad.

Ten years ago, I wrote a piece, still pinned in the list of pages at the bottom of this blog’s main page, wherein I state that we cannot “tone down the rhetoric” and “just get along” when it comes to a critically important issue: abortion.  I made a connection to the civil rights movement.  HERE

I suggest that you read the whole piece over at The Catholic Thing Remember it when someone says that we shouldn’t politicize the Eucharist.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Canon Law, Emanations from Penumbras, The Drill and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. scoot says:

    “We shouldn’t politicize the Eucharist” = “Politics is a holier liturgy than the Eucharist and should come first” = “Don’t desecrate politics by bringing the Eucharist into it”

  2. ChesterFrank says:

    Ah, now contrast this with the elderly woman with Alzheimer’s who was denied communion. If you can deny her because “she is incapable of understanding what the Eucharist is”, you can deny the avid abortion promoting catholic (small c) politicians because they are certainly incapable of “understanding what the Eucharist is.”

  3. Semper Gumby says:

    Abp. Rummel- A Steely-Eyed Catholic Man and Priest of God.

    The phrase “separation of church and state” appears in a letter by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist group around 1803- it is not in the Constitution.

    The Constitution’s First Amendment reads:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” (These are the “Establishment” and “Free Exercise” clauses).

    The Founders knew that preserving the Republic required a “moral and religious people.” Fr. Neuhaus and many others have written extensively on this.

    So, as to the question above: “Would an American bishop be violating the ‘separation of Church and state’ if he dared to excommunicate a Catholic politician?” No.

    In related news, on Monday at the White House Catholic Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney met with several Catholic leaders to discuss Religious Freedom and Life. Yesterday, Pres. Trump signed an Executive Order giving most federal employees a holiday on Christmas Eve. Several weeks ago at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, Pres. Trump said:

    “In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge lit the first National Christmas tree. Later that night, African-American community centers held an outdoor worship service on these grounds, and during that service the Washington Monument was illuminated with a beautiful cross, a powerful reminder of the meaning of Christmas.”

  4. L. says:

    Denial of communion to manifest public sinners might run headlong into an important effort by the USCCB, which has identified the (supposed) lack of civil discourse is one of the most pressing problems in the United States:
    “November 1, 2019
    WASHINGTON – One year ahead of the 2020 national elections, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is launching a year-long initiative that invites Catholics to model civility, love for neighbor, and respectful dialogue. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate . . . will ask Catholics to pledge civility, clarity, and compassion in their families, communities, and parishes, and call on others to do the same.” http://www.usccb.org/news/2019/19-183.cfm

    So, I think that denying Holy Communion to someone who engages in committing manifest public sins– at least those of a type that the Bishops really don’t mind too much, or don’t really consider to be sins– would be “uncivil.” I don’t know if doing so would be considered by the Bishops to be un-Christ-like since He is not mentioned in the USCCB’s press release on this subject. I have to think, though, that calling someone invidious names, such as “whited sepulchers” or “brood of vipers” and the like, without doubt would be considered “uncivil” and probably grounds to refuse someone Holy Communion.

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    When Presidential candidate Joe Biden was denied Holy Communion last month in South Carolina, the priest was not “politicizing,” he was doing his duty as a priest.

    Three incidents: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) stated to Amy Barrett in a Congressional hearing that “the dogma lives loudly in you” and it was a “concern” that should be addressed. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) grilled judicial nominee Brian Buescher about his Knights of Columbus membership. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Pres.Cand.) grilling of nominee Russell Vought for Vought’s defense of a Christian college that fired a professor for pro-Islam statements and publicly wearing a hijab.

    Here is the “No Religious Test Clause” from the Constitution:

    Article VI 3: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    Some say that this Clause applies only to federal employees and not state employees.

    Two items: California SB360 would have demanded priests break the Seal of Confession. About two weeks ago a city job near Chicago was advertised “Democrats Only” but the ad was removed within two days.

    Then there is Pres. Obama’s “bitter clingers to religion,” Hillary Clinton’s “religious beliefs have to be changed,” and the leaked e-mails of Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager John Podesta which discussed the need for a “Catholic Spring.”

    These days one wonders who is politicizing what and why.

  6. I love Bl. Clemens von Galen. We need to pray for his intercession. He was a great bishop. Even in 1933, when he was raised to the See of Muenster, he was opposed by his confreres as being too “13th century,” thus showing that the rot was well under way even then, even if it was not pervasive enough yet to keep him from becoming a bishop.

    One of my favorite little stories about Bl. Clemens is told at the beginning of Chapter 6 of The Lion of Muenster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis. His quick and devastating wit was, in my view a sign of a holy and uncluttered mind:

    The Bishop of Münster was preaching about family life. As usual, there were Nazi informers in the cathedral. This time, too, there was a heckler. “Celibates have no business talking about marriage and children!” came a shout from the congregation. The bishop slammed his fist on the pulpit and shouted back, “I will not tolerate any reflection upon the Führer in my cathedral!”

  7. By the way, this, from a sermon by Bl. Clemens von Galen on July 20, 1941, might just apply to us today in our tormented time:

    Become hard! Remain firm! At this moment we are the anvil rather than the hammer. Other men, mostly strangers and renegades, are hammering us, seeking by violent means to bend our nation, ourselves and our young people aside from their straight relationship with God. We are the anvil and not the hammer. But ask the blacksmith and hear what he says: the object which is forged on the anvil receives its form not alone from the hammer but also from the anvil. The anvil cannot and need not strike back: it must only be firm, only hard! If it is sufficiently tough and firm and hard the anvil usually lasts longer than the hammer. However hard the hammer strikes, the anvil stands quietly and firmly in place and will long continue to shape the objects forged upon it.

    The anvil represents those who are unjustly imprisoned, those who are driven out and banished for no fault of their own. God will support them, that they may not lose the form and attitude of Christian firmness, when the hammer of persecution strikes its harsh blows and inflicts unmerited wounds on them….

    We are the anvil, not the hammer! Unfortunately you cannot shield your children, the noble but still untempered crude metal, from the hammer-blows of hostility to the faith and hostility to the Church. But the anvil also plays a part in forging. Let your family home, your parental love and devotion, your exemplary Christian life be the strong, tough, firm and unbreakable anvil which absorbs the force of the hostile blows, which continually strengthens and fortifies the still weak powers of the young in the sacred resolve not to let themselves be diverted from the direction that leads to God.

  8. tho says:

    The Lion of Munster had it right. Isn’t it a shame, that with all the liberal nonsense that has permeated our church, there is not one Bishop, that we can refer to as the Lion of any of our dioceses, on second thought Bishop Brusckewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska. Maybe I had better backtrack, there were probably a couple of others.
    As an aside, I can remember reading where Archbishop Rummel was a paratrooper in WWII.

  9. Pingback: THVRSDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  10. JELD says:

    Thank you so much for this piece. Archbishop Joseph Rummel was one of the very first graduates (1890s) of Saint Anselm College, Goffstown, NH – the same Benedictine college that will be hosting the final U.S. Presidential Primary Debates in February 2020. May Rummel’s legacy and example of faithfulness be better known AND inspire many to follow in his footsteps! Also, you can see some amazing video of Catholic culture and spirit at Rummel’s installation in New Orleans in 1935 if you google “Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel” at site:rummelraiders dot com

  11. tho says:

    My mistake, it was Archbishop Phillip Hannan of New Orleans who served as a chaplain in the 82nd Airborne Division in WWII.
    I took JELD’s advice and caught my error.

  12. Hidden One says:

    See what happens to adherence to the Code as a whole when we start neglecting inconvenient canons about priestly formation–like canon 249, for instance?

    When formators disobey the ‘little’ laws, those they form disobey the ‘big’ laws.

  13. Semper Gumby says:

    Here’s more on The Lion of Munster.

    Sermon of 3 August 1941, St. Lambert’s Church, Munster (on the National Socialist T-4 (Euthanasia) Program):

    “My beloved Bretheren,”

    “For the past several months it has been reported that, on instructions from Berlin, patients who have been suffering for a long time from apparently incurable diseases have been forcibly removed from homes and clinics. Their relatives are later informed that the patient has died, that the body has been cremated and that the ashes may be claimed. There is little doubt that these numerous cases of unexpected death in the case of the insane are not natural, but often deliberately caused, and result from the belief that it is lawful to take away life which is unworthy of being lived.”

    “It is simply because that according to some doctor, or because of the decision of some committee, they have no longer a right to live because they are ‘unproductive citizens’. The opinion is that since they can no longer make money, they are obsolete machines, comparable with some old cow that can no longer give milk or some horse that has gone lame. What is the lot of unproductive machines and cattle? They are destroyed. I have no intention of stretching this comparison further. The case here is not one of machines or cattle which exist to serve men and furnish them with plenty. They may be legitimately done away with when they can no longer fulfil their function. Here we are dealing with human beings, with our neighbours, brothers and sisters, the poor and invalids . . . unproductive—perhaps! But have they, therefore, lost the right to live? Have you or I the right to exist only because we are ‘productive’? If the principle is established that unproductive human beings may be killed, then God help all those invalids who, in order to produce wealth, have given their all and sacrificed their strength of body. If all unproductive people may thus be violently eliminated, then woe betide our brave soldiers who return home, wounded, maimed or sick.”

    Note what the Lion of Munster did with that last sentence.

    The Gestapo observers were not amused. National Socialist Party members left the church ‘snorting with rage’ [‘wutschnaubend’].

    The RAF airdropped copies of the sermon over Germany. BBC Radio reported it. The Daily Express reported it on the front page.

    As for Hitler’s reaction, from “Hitler’s Table Talk” (monologues transcribed between 1941-44):

    “he may rest assured that in the balancing of our accounts no “t” will remain uncrossed, no “i” left unsorted.”

    Hitler from 13 December 1941:

    “The war will be over one day. I shall then consider that my life’s final task will be to solve the religious problem. Only then will the German nation be entirely secure once and for all…The organized lie must be smashed… I’ve since realized that there’s room for a little subtlety. The rotten branch falls of itself. The final state must be: in St. Peter’s chair, a senile officiant; facing him, a few sinister old women, as poor in spirit as anyone could wish. The young and healthy are on our side.”

Comments are closed.